Jacob is an engineering leader who has spent his past 16 years building software in healthcare technology, with a focus on SaaS product offerings and scalable data platforms. As Actium Health’s Vice President, Engineering, Jacob leads the development of the organization’s platform and is responsible for the engineering of Actium’s product, infrastructure, production operations, and data integrations. Prior to Actium, Jacob was a founding member and leader of the engineering team behind Mirth (acquired by NextGen Healthcare), an open source healthcare integration engine, and Health Data Hub, a cloud-based central data repository and aggregation platform.
Exaltitude newsletter is packed with advice for navigating your engineering career journey successfully. Sign up to stay tuned!
You don’t need to move to management to grow in your career.
Engineering has shifted this narrative over the years. Oftentimes no one is more valuable than a rockstar IC today. I’ve seen a lot of great technical talent move to management because they thought it was what they were “supposed to do” next in their career, only to find that they hated it and in turn, weren’t very good at it.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t move to management if you want it for the right reasons. As a manager, your primary role is to build the team. I’m glad I am now able to scale my impact as a leader, but it took years of experience and personal growth before I knew it was the right move. Figure out what you enjoy, and choose a career path that keeps you excited to go to work every day.
I can’t stress enough how much being at a startup helped to expand my career potential. As your company grows and you gain technical experience, you’re often faced with challenges that present leadership opportunities. In my case, I wanted to continue increasing my impact by finding a way to scale myself.
As an early IC Engineer I was not only building the product, but defining its roadmap, helping with support, presenting at conferences, managing our open source community, and even doing sales demos. At a startup, you often need to wear many hats. Having to step up and fill in gaps across functions helped set me up with enough experience to make the leap to engineering leader.
Technical aptitude, interest in new technologies, and curiosity about how things work. These tend to be the engineers that are truly passionate about their work, and I’ve often prioritized these traits over years of experience.
Don’t get me wrong, experience is super important, especially when you consider all of the learnings you get over the years from the mistakes you are bound to make. It’s still important to balance a team with different levels of experience, but I find that technically adept and passionate engineers can learn and grow their expertise quickly, even when faced with new challenges and unfamiliar technologies.
Many people choose to get into health tech because they’re passionate about doing something good and helping to save lives. This passion is what kept me here for 16 years. Candidly, I had not predicted this. Originally, I just stumbled upon a project and team that seemed like a lot of fun early in my career and decided to go with it.
At the time, open source software in healthcare was almost unheard of. We broke that mold by open sourcing our product and caused a disruption in the industry. Now that piece of software is being used in over 100 different countries and on well over 10,000 active servers in health systems worldwide.
I learned early on that the healthcare industry is often about ten years behind in technology, but people looking to innovate can use that to their advantage. If you want to make an impact and disrupt an industry, then there’s no better opportunity than health tech. Of course, feeling that I go to work every day to do good and help save lives doesn’t hurt either.
Technology is enabling patients to take greater control over their health. Patients can schedule and visit their doctor through their phone. COVID has accelerated telehealth and it will continue to gain traction. Patients are becoming more knowledgeable as apps better educate them about their care plans. Health systems are able to provide more personalized care. Expect to see these shifts continue. Like other industries, AI, data science, and automation are taking health tech by storm. At my current company, we’re leveraging these trends to revolutionize the way health systems engage with their patients.